We all know that first impressions matter. They form the general attitude of a person towards a situation. This is true for classes as well. The way we choose to start the class can largely affect the intended outcome of the session. Hence, choosing the right warm-up activities is one of the keys to having a successful lesson.
Below are some warm-up activities that I am using in my classes.
Participants think of an adjective to describe how they are feeling at that moment or how they can describe themselves. The adjective must start with the same letter as their name, for instance, “I’m Anna and I’m amazing”. Or, “I’m John and I’m jealous.” As they say this, they can also mime an action that describes the adjective.
This is a very nice warmer for new courses when the students are just getting to know each other.
Arrange the classroom in a way, that students have enough space to move. Call out a characteristic of people in the group, such as ‘have children’. All those who have children should move to one corner of the room. As you call out more characteristics, such as ‘likes tennis’, people with the characteristic move to the indicated space. Then you can ask students to call out characteristics.
This can be arranged with chairs as well. Put the chairs in a circle. Let everyone sit. Call out the characteristics. The students who match the characteristic should stand up and change the seats. In the meantime, you try to occupy the free seats. The person who stays on their feet should call the next characteristic.
This is a nice ice-breaker if you want the students to have fun and get to know each other at the same time.
Choose a number of phrases, and write half of each phrase on a piece of paper or card. For example, they write ‘Good’ on one piece of paper and ‘Morning’ on another. (The number of pieces of paper should match the number of participants in the group.) Put the folded pieces of paper into a hat. Each participant takes a piece of paper from the hat and tries to find the member of the group with the matching half of the phrase.
This is a great activity to revise course vocabulary, especially if you have been teaching phrasal verbs and/or idioms.
Ask for a volunteer to leave the room. While the volunteer is away, the rest of the participants decide on an occupation for him/her, such as a driver, or a fisherman. When the volunteer returns, he/she should ask yes/no questions to try to guess what the profession is. The participants should answer yes/no and provide hints occasionally when their peer is having difficulty to guess.
This is a nice activity to revise the vocabulary of ‘jobs’ and question forms. Moreover, you can practise it with any vocabulary topic.
Ask participants to walk around the room, you can play some music, so they pace under the rhythm. After a short while, shout out “Find someone…” and name a piece of clothing. The participants have to rush to stand close to the person described. Repeat this exercise several times using different types of clothing.
This is a very nice way to revise the vocabulary for clothing and creates a game-like environment where students forget that they are actually learning at the same time. This can get very funny when students start to confuse some clothing items.
Put the students into pairs. Ask them to observe one another and try to memorise the appearance of each other. Then one turns their back while the other makes three
changes to his/her appearance; for example, putting their watch on the other wrist, removing their glasses, and rolling up their sleeves. The other player then turns around and has to try to spot the three changes. The players then switch roles.
This works well with younger groups. They feel challenged to win. It also works well when you want to introduce the topic of appearance.
Put the students into small teams. The teams stand as far as possible from the teacher. The teacher then calls out “Bring me...”, and names an object close by. For example, “Bring me a pen or pencil.” The teams race to bring what has been requested. You can repeat this several times, asking the teams to bring different things.
I have been using this activity to revise classroom language, stationery and food. Students find this interesting and challenging. As we know, using total physical response is one of the best practices ways of assimilating new things.
Students sit in a circle. An object is passed around the circle. The person who receives the object has to talk continuously until his/her neighbour decides to take the object. You can also time the speaker for 1-2 minutes and then pass the object to a different student in the room. This will be more unexpected and challenging.
I have been using this activity for quite a long time. Sometimes, instead of objects I am using topic cards, like “Marketing, Finance, Football”. It depends on the topics and the vocabulary that we have covered during the previous sessions. This is a nice fluency booster.
Let us know what other warmers you have been using and which one was the best in your experience.